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Vaccines safe for pregnant women, Wits study confirms

A local study has found there are no major safety concerns regarding the use of mainly the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant women.

News24 reports that pregnant women infected with COVID-19 have a higher risk of still and pre-term birth, and the research, published in Trends in Molecular Medicine, reviewed studies focusing on pregnant women who had received COVID-19 vaccines to establish the safety of these during pregnancy and how they affect birth outcomes and foetus safety.

The researchers from the Wits Vaccines and Infectious Diseases Analytics (VIDA) identified 17 observational studies on the immunogenicity of vaccines in pregnant women up until the end of February.

Antibodies detected in umbilical cord blood

The study found that pregnant women jabbed with the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines experience no significant adverse effects such as pre-term birth, negative birthing outcomes or negative impacts on their babies’ health.

The findings also show that the antibodies in the umbilical cord blood after the mothers’ vaccination strongly correlated with maternal antibody levels.

The researchers recommend that breastfeeding women get vaccinated to transfer antibodies to their infants and provide them with some protection.

Study details

COVID-19 vaccines in pregnancy

Marta Nunes, Shabir Madhi

Published in Trends in Molecular Medicine on 3 May 2022


COVID-19 during pregnancy is associated with a higher risk of stillbirth and preterm birth.

The current COVID-19 vaccines were not tested in pregnant women in the initial clinical trials, but information on their safety, immunogenicity, and effectiveness has been generated from observational studies.

No major safety concerns on the use of mainly the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant women have been identified.
Pregnant women mount immune responses to COVID-19 mRNA vaccines comparable to non-pregnant counterparts. Anti-SARS-CoV-2 IgG are detected in cord blood following maternal vaccination at concentrations that strongly correlated with both maternal antibody levels and the time elapsed since vaccination.

Vaccination of pregnant women with mRNA COVID-19 vaccines has been shown to be effective in protecting the women against disease.

COVID-19 caused by SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus has been associated with severe illness in pregnant women. Furthermore, COVID-19 during pregnancy is associated with adverse foetal outcomes including preterm labour. Pregnant women were largely excluded from initial clinical trials investigating the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines; however, they have since been included as part of the routine roll-out of these vaccines.

This narrative review synthesises the evidence on the safety, immunogenicity, and effectiveness predominantly of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines which have been most widely used in pregnant women.


News24 article – Local study finds current Covid-19 vaccines safe for pregnant women (Open access)


Trends in Molecular Medicine article – COVID-19 vaccines in pregnancy (Open access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


COVID doubles perinatal risk in pregnancy – Large Kaiser study


COVID vaccination not linked to premature birth or unusually small babies – CDC study


COVID increases pregnancy and birth complications — French hospital study




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